Brown Horse “Reservoir”

Loose Music, 2024

A melancholy masterpiece of layered sounds and words of heartache and loneliness.

Stealing Horses’, which opens the album neatly sums up the evolution of Brown Horse from folk quartet to Country Rock powerhouse. Accordion mixed with Neil Young-style guitar, may sound like an uneasy combination, but the slightly unlikely blend produces a wall of sound that supports the singer and their words, in much the way that the best Cowboy Junkies songs do.

Their press says that “the band acknowledges an indebtedness to the turn-of-the-millennium alt-country sounds of Uncle Tupelo, Silver Jews, Lucinda Williams, and Jason Molina, the songs on the album also resonate with the preceding “Last Waltz’” generation of seventies folk-rock artist,” which undersells the band badly. Yes, there are discernible influences, but they are assimilated into a unique sound. The title song, brings the folk instrumentation forward and pushes the howling guitar into the background, adding to the theme of desperation and loneliness that it speaks of. The song seems to give up, rather than actually ending which leaves the listener with a feeling of weary melancholy.

The electric piano on recent single ‘Shoot Back’ reminds us that masters of the melancholy are The Delines, but Brown Horse are closing on them fast. ‘Shoot Back’ is “a questioning, frustrated kind of song. The lines in the chorus were based on something we heard someone say in a union branch meeting. It’s a pretty angry song in a lot of ways but there’s maybe some hopefulness mixed in there too”.

A shift of sound to stately piano ballad arrives on ‘Everlasting.’ The spiky guitar solo punctuates the anthemic harmony vocals, and piano outro.  ‘Paul Gilley’ is a tale of heartache set against the life of the songwriter, who drowned in 1957 at the age of twenty-seven, whose mother destroyed much of his work.

The fiddle breaks that crop up in the middle of ‘Sunfisher’ is more of a scream in a “silence that rings like a bell”, rather than the that you might expect from the way the descending line is played. It’s the electric guitar and piano that dominate the driving ‘Silver Bullet’. You can almost hear the crowd noise over the sustained guitar note that fades away at the end.

Called Away’ closes the album with a more delicate country folk tune, with guitar distortion allowed to drift into the background’, behind the acoustic instruments.

With a sizeable UK tour, currently in some fairly small venues but that could be about to change, coming up in the spring, and the positive press building Brown Horse could be the name to conjure with this year. Is it too early to talk about album of the year? Their Bandcamp page suggests they are “alt-country nobodies”. Not anymore.

9/10
9/10

About Tim Martin 239 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.
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David D Harper

The musical envelope that Brown Horse provides to the Sunfisher lyrics is exactly the sort of presentation my band attempted to achieve, but could never quite produce – hats off to them! However, I found the nasally/yodelly singing distracting, I’m sorry to say. Loved it otherwise.

Earendel

Enjoyed that throughout. Excellent debut.